Family Support Worker

    If you are wondering how to become a family support worker, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this field, as well as social services job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Family support workers assist families who are experiencing problems, visiting them regularly to offer practical help and emotional support. The aim is to allow children to remain with their families rather than being taken into care.

    As a family support worker your role would vary depending on the particular needs of the family you are working with. Challenges facing your clients can include:

    drug and alcohol abuse
    a parent in hospital or prison
    marital or financial difficulties
    a child or parent with a disability.
    You would often have a family referred to you by a social worker and together you would plan the type and length of support needed by the family. A key part of your work would involve helping parents to enhance their home management and parenting skills, which could involve:

    developing physical and emotional caring skills
    learning how to educate children through play
    understanding effective ways to deal with discipline and behaviour difficulties
    gaining control of the family budget
    encouraging parents to attend local workshops to develop their parenting skills.
    In crisis situations, for example when a single parent is going into hospital, you may move into your client’s home on a very short term basis until alternative care can be found. You may also help social workers assess a family’s needs when a child has returned home from being in care.

    You would keep accurate client records, which can be used as evidence in court, attend case conferences and regular team meetings.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good family support workers include:

    the ability to communicate sensitively and effectively with children and adults
    good team working skills
    the ability to build good working relationships with families who may be initially hostile
    practical knowledge and understanding of child development and the needs of children
    the ability to assist parents with the running of their home
    a non-judgmental approach and a commitment to supporting people in difficult circumstances
    empathy, patience and good listening skills
    the ability to stay calm under pressure
    good organisational skills
    a flexible approach to working hours and the range of duties this role can involve.

    How to become a family support worker
    To become a family support worker, you will need relevant experience (and possibly qualifications) that demonstrate your ability and potential for this work. You could gain experience (paid or voluntary) by working with children and families in a range of settings, such as:

    children’s homes
    family refuge centres
    probation services
    family community centres
    mental health services
    youth work projects.
    Within each of these areas, there are a variety of qualifications you could work towards that may give you an advantage when applying for a family support worker job, for example:

    NVQ levels 2, 3 and 4 in Children’s Care, Learning and Development
    NVQ levels 2, 3 and 4 in Health and Social Care
    BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning and Development
    CACHE Certificate or Diploma in Child Care and Education.
    Social work qualifications are also a good preparation for working in family support.

    Training and Development
    Once you are working as a family support worker, you will usually receive training from your employer in all aspects of the job including:

    the legal context of family support work
    assessment methods when working with families
    child protection issues
    recognising the signs of drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence
    health and safety and first aid.
    You may also be encouraged to work towards qualifications, such as:

    a foundation degree in Professional Studies in Family Support
    a BTEC HNC in Advanced Practice in Working with Children and Families
    a postgraduate award in Child Protection and Family Support.
    You will be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career and many employers provide on-going supervision, coaching and training opportunities.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries can be around £17,000 a year.
    With experience this can rise to around £26,500.
    Family support managers may earn up to £33,500.

    Job Prospects
    You would find most job opportunities with children’s charities, such as the NSPCC and local authority social services departments.

    With experience and qualifications you may progress to team leader (managing a group of support workers) or assistant manager of a family centre or refuge.

    As a family support worker, you would gain insight into the social work profession and some employers will support you through professional training in social work (check the Social Worker job profile for more information).

    You can find vacancies in the local and national press, local authority job bulletins, charities’ websites and on the LG Jobs website.

    Useful social services resources:

    This page is for family support worker careers advice and training opportunities.

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